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A.L. Pryor

Other Florida Exonerations
At approximately 2:30 a.m. on February 5, 2022, deputies with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office on the west coast of Florida arrived at Baby Dolls Lounge in Clearwater to escort a man off the premises.

While deputies were handling this incident, a bouncer asked the officers to come inside to help break up a fight.

Sergeant Sarah Robinson, who was 31 years old, went inside with other officers and found numerous people fighting. She and other officers began trying to separate the parties.

Robinson would later say in a report that she saw two women fighting near the restrooms. They were grabbing each other’s hair, and the first woman was hitting the other in the face and upper torso. Robinson broke up the fight and told the first woman to leave the location. That woman, according to Robinson, then hit her in the face, knocking the earpiece out of Robinson’s ear, and disappearing into the chaotic crowd.

Several minutes later, Robinson would say, another deputy told her that he had spotted the woman in the restroom. Robinson said the woman had changed clothes. According to Robinson, the other woman in the fight told Robinson that this was the woman with whom she had fought.

Robinson and other officers then swarmed the woman, arresting 42-year-old A.L. Pryor and charging her with assault, resisting arrest, and battery on a law enforcement officer.

Pryor said she was innocent and had not hit Robinson. After making bail, Pryor ran into Robinson outside the jail, and she asked the officer why she and not the other woman had been charged. “Well, you punched me in the face,” said Robinson, “I did not punch you,” Pryor said. “Is it on your body-cam?” According to Robinson’s report, it wasn’t. She wrote: “My body-worn camera was knocked off during this offense. Upon retrieval, it appeared the impact caused the power to turn off and, therefore, no video was captured.”

Pryor went to trial on the battery charge in Pinellas County Circuit Court on October 12, 2022. The state dismissed the other two charges in April 2022.

Robinson testified about the events at the nightclub and said as part of her training as a law-enforcement officer she learned to recognize unique aspects of a person’s appearance that helped her make identifications.

She pointed out Pryor in court as the woman who hit her and said she had no doubt about her identification. “There was a female that we pulled off of another female,” Robinson said. “I told her to leave and she did not leave immediately. She—I told her to leave. She looked at me and said I don’t have anywhere else to go, took a step towards me, struck me in the face, and then started to leave.”

Although Robinson had no body-cam footage, at least one deputy was recording the events. Pryor’s attorney, Jonathan Douglas, cross-examined Robinson about this footage, walking her through the critical seconds around the time Robinson was hit. The footage appeared to show Pryor in the background and not engaged with Robinson at the time of the assault.

On redirect, the prosecutor didn’t ask Robinson to explain the discrepancy. Robinson testified that shortly after she was hit she spotted the woman who hit her, and that woman was Pryor.

The jury convicted Pryor of battery on a law enforcement officer on October 12, 2022. She received three years of probation.

After her conviction, Pryor filed a complaint with the sheriff’s department, alleging that the officers testified falsely at her trial.

The sheriff’s department investigated Pryor’s complaint and reviewed the body-cam footage more closely. Its new analysis appeared to support Pryor’s assertion that she was not near Robinson when the officer said she was hit.

On November 28, 2022, the Pinellas County District Attorney moved to vacate Pryor’s conviction and dismiss her charge. The motion said: “There is newly discovered evidence relating to the identification of the Defendant.” Judge Susan St. John granted the motion that day.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 11/14/2023
Last Updated: 11/14/2023
Most Serious Crime:Assault
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2022
Age at the date of reported crime:42
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No